Linger around the right social media circles and you could be forgiven for thinking Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one of the worst games ever released. Whether it’s the meteoric rise of Naughty Dog or the fact that it’s a PlayStation 4 exclusive, this title receives some of the most hyperbolic ire online – and considering the web rarely deals in shades of grey, that’s some accolade.
I was, admittedly, rather giddy about Nathan Drake’s finale in my Uncharted 4 review a few years ago, describing it as the “apex of cinematic action experiences”. However, even back then I was eager to point out that this was not a revolutionary outing like some of its predecessors. “[This] will not redefine the gaming landscape,” I wrote, “but Drake's latest adventure is undoubtedly his greatest yet.” I actually think it’s been bettered by Uncharted: The Lost Legacy since, but that game simply couldn’t exist without its numbered counterpart.
I do understand some of the criticisms pointed at Uncharted 4, of course – it’s by no means a perfect game. Some of the climbing sections are artificially elongated and uninteresting; Naughty Dog would later go on to explain that a challenging development cycle meant it was forced to remove a new scrambling mechanic at the last minute, reducing the interactivity of these platforming sequences.
This doesn’t mean that you should overlook one of the best PS4 single player story games. This is such a polished game from start-to-finish: there’s a prison escape, a high-speed car chase, a collapsing clock tower, a deep-sea diving sequence, and a lost city to explore. The characters are all universally great, and all the key cast members are developed in interesting ways. It’s a playable Hollywood movie, but it’s somehow much more personal than past Uncharted games.
And to be clear, it is a game. For some reason, armchair critics like to pretend that Naughty Dog’s emphasis on strong storytelling comes at the expense of gameplay, but Uncharted 4’s combat bowls are among the best in the series, emphasising Nate’s unique mobility. Moving around the stages at pace is terrifically entertaining, and a new grappling hook mechanic really ups the ante in this area. The environments are bigger, too, meaning stealth is a genuine possibility.
Larger stages mean there’s more off-the-beaten-path exploration than ever before, and while this is still a linear game, it evolves on an established formula in some very intelligent ways. A giant map inspired by Madagascar just begs to be discovered, while another section sees you cruising around a beautiful blue island in a boat.
It all looks and sounds absolutely stunning, of course, but that’s par for the course. I personally think Uncharted 4 has been treated harshly in the years since its release, but if you’ve heard all the misplaced criticism then I’m here to tell you that April 2020’s free PS Plus game is still absolutely worth your time. This is a must-play PS4 exclusive, and one of the generation’s finest campaigns.
Will you be playing Uncharted 4 for the first time while it's free on PS Plus, or have you played it before? Are you tempted to revisit Drake's final adventure? Gun us down in the comments section below.